By Cody Altizer

 This past weekend, while many hunters across the country were still focused on trying to shoot big toms in the face with their 12 gauge shotguns, my brother and I had our minds fixed in a familiar place, the whitetail woods.  In fact, our minds weren’t just in the whitetail woods; we were physically in them too.  It was a beautiful, cool, sunny spring day and our mission was to get all 8 of our hang-on tree stands hung and ready for the opening day of the Virginia archery season.

Unfortunately, we missed out on that goal as we only got 6 of our stands hung (I forgot I needed to replace straps in one, and the other is going to be used to practice out of in my backyard this summer), but the day was still an incredible success.  We got to spend some quality time in the woods hanging out, goofing off, and preparing for what will be our 19th season hunting together (wow, are we getting old?).

I say this each and every year after I hang stands, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more confident in all of my set-ups than I am right now.  I strongly believe each stand has the potential to put a mature buck within 30 yards of the stand.  Of course, each stand was hung with different hunting situations and scenarios in mind.  Half of the stands won’t be hunted until November.  In a perfect world, one of our stands will only be hunted once or twice in October before it will be moved in preparation for November and the rut.  Finally, there’s a stand, just a couple yards behind my house, that I feel confident in saying that, provided the right wind; I could hunt tomorrow morning and have a great opportunity at tagging an old mature doe.

However, what I find most interesting is how each stand location seems to take on it’s own personality given it’s location, and the caliber of deer we expect to see from that stand.  For example, one of my favorite stands is hung in a tree where you actually have to climb up the tree beside it, and step down onto a set of screw-in steps before being able to climb up the second tree to access the stand.  Trust me, the stand is completely safe and secure, and actually not all that hard to get into, but it’s in such a dynamite spot that we had to put a stand there.  I call it the “Stand of Death,” because 1) it looks like a nightmare getting into, that you swear you’ll have to cheat death himself to access, and 2) every single time we hunt this location, we stand a good chance of harvesting a mature deer.

Further, there’s a stand in the thickest Japanese Barberry stand I’ve seen, that looks like a total crap shoot if you were to look at the area on an aerial map.  The Japanese Barberry stand (which I will be spraying and killing here soon) is close to 5 acres in size, and literally impenetrable in place.  However, once you get into the bush and explore a bit, you find a small network of trails that the deer use to sneak, slink, snake, and slip in and out undetected in the morning on their way back to bed.  It’s so thick, in fact, that you literally can’t see more than 15 yards directly in front of the stand.  My brother and I will likely cut ourselves to pieces trying to get into this stand come fall, but once we do, it should provide some great up close encounters this fall.

Every year I hang my stands earlier and earlier in the year.  For one, it’s a great way to minimize pressure, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that my subconscious is becoming increasingly restless and it’s a great way to get out in the woods and think about killing whitetails!  Either way, whenever I get my stands hung, it begins the countdown until opening day.  I guess that means every year the countdown gets longer, but that only makes opening day that much sweeter!

– Cody Altizer,